Dan with Hannah As She Gets Back on the Horse on the San Ysidro Trail

sy 4aa cliffside tip

Tip rescuing Hannah (February 2017)

Crashing down a 25’ cliff, ripping open her thigh to the bone, and having a hot shot Ivy League surgeon sew her back together has not deterred Hannah in the least from returning to the scene of her epic fall.  Two years ago, she plummeted down into the San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito, California, thankfully to be rescued by our son-in-law Tip.  Click here for part 1 of the blog.

A year ago, Hannah and I had planned to hike this trail when all hell broke loose.  First, the Thomas Fire burned 300,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.  Then three weeks later the debris flow with car size boulders, whole trees, and Biblical mud roared down this canyon killing 23 people and totally reconfigured the landscape and closed the trail.

sy 1 h at start

Hannah at the start of the trail in January 2019

Today, fearlessly, Hannah joins me on the San Ysidro Trail to see if we can find where she fell and lay to rest any apprehensions for either of us about her fall.  Fact is, I am not nervous at all.  Hell, I didn’t fall down the cliff; Hannah does now hike on the inside of mountainside trails.  Her momma didn’t raise no fool.

sy 1a non tunnel of trees

The non-tunnel of trees in 2019

With few cars parked at the trailhead on East Valley Road, we begin hiking on a trail once a tunnel of trees that now has clear views to a creek bed strewn with massive boulders that once were high above in the coastal Santa Ynez Mountains.

Paralleling the now scrubbed and scoured reconfigured mountain creek, we are stunned to see the hammering and sawing of workers rebuilding homes on the other side.  What part of deadly debris flows don’t they get!

sy 2a scoured creek

The scoured San Ysidro Creek.  Two years ago we could only peek through the trees to see the water flowing

Within a few hundred yards, we come to the staging area where two years ago a fire department ambulance waited for Hannah; she had heroically walked a mile and a half down the mountain with gashes in her leg so deep infection was an ever-present danger.

sy 3 narrow trail

Heading on the single file trail in 2019

As we climb towards the scene of her fall today, we wonder if where she fell is even recognizable given the recontouring of the creek.  At the one mile mark, the trail narrows, and we walk single file, climbing towards the waterfall now a mile away.  Over jagged rocks, we head to the falls on a trail that is mostly intact but has been shored up in places by the Montecito Trail Foundation.

sy 4e where h fell

A 2019 view down to the creek where Hannah fell in 2017

Ninety-nine per cent sure, we see the wide spot in the trail where our daughter Molly distracted our grandsons, Owen (then four and a half) and Max (nearly 3), while Tip rescued Hannah from her perch on a cliffside of sharp, angry rocks 30’ above the unforgiving creek boulders below.

Much of the area where Tip climbed horizontally to rescue Hannah is now gone, but clearly this was where Carol King had it so right for Hannah when she sang, I feel the earth move under my feet!

Hannah doesn’t flinch as we examine the area and we both count our lucky stars.

sy 4f where h fell

In 2019 trailside where Hannah fell

Hannah remembers:

We head back to the trail (San Ysidro) from which I plummeted two years ago…feeling just slightly uneasy, but not afraid. It’s both about getting back up on the horse – and also thanking the powers that be (both the terrain and the people involved in my rescue) for bringing me back from the edge. As we hike, I find I hug the inside of the trail.  Much more sensitive to “edges” since my slide – I wish Dan would be likewise.  We find familiar places along the trail ~ one of our favorite trails, still ~ smiling at the memories: Tip lifting us up over a rushing brook; Tip and the boys walking three across on a wider stretch of the trail; Tip being his calm, reassuring self as he “bandaged” me (with diapers) and brought me back up the cliff; Molly and Owen running ahead for an ambulance to meet us upon our return to the trail head; walking hand-in-hand with Dan that last mile and a half after the fall; then compassion-in-action as I’m lifted into the emergency vehicle for the eventual ambulance ride I was so sure I wasn’t going to accept.

sy 4c where h fell

One last 2019 look at the spot where “the earth moved under her feet”

Yup, I’d rather not have taken that fall…but so much good came of it that I would otherwise have missed. I’m overcome with gratitude as Dan hikes back down the trail with me.  Again, I walk hand-in-hand with him as we head for the trail head – and Home.

Pictures from two years ago and today fill in the spaces of my narrative.



sy 1aa tunnel of trees

The start of the trail in 2017 with its tunnel of trees with our daughter Molly, Owen, Max, and Tip

sy 2 scoured creek

The recontoured San Ysidro Trail after the Thomas Fire and the Montecito Debris Flow in 2017


sy 3b h on trail

Hannah on the trail in 2019 where once a torrent came down the mountain into the main creek

sy 3ccc rawding spot

On the trail in 2017 with Owen, Molly, Hannah, Max, and Tip twenty minutes before her fall

sy 3c h at rawding spot

Hannah at the same spot in 2019

sy 3cc d at rawding spot

The Ithaca Bomber in 2019 at the same spot

sy 5 falls two years ago

The San Ysidro Falls in 2017

sy 5 falls contrast with before

The barely visible San Ysidro Falls in 2019.  Brush covered the trail so Hannah and I couldn’t get within 200′ of the falls as we did in 2017



13 thoughts on “Dan with Hannah As She Gets Back on the Horse on the San Ysidro Trail

  1. Thanks for sharing this important revisit to the source of a great life challenge. Bless you both. I know that spiritually this is a very important event.



  2. OY. What a story…..I wondered if you’d ever return. Looks like sweet weather there…..a bit chillier here….xoxooox

  3. What a story! I still remember hanging on the edge of my seat as I read each installment. I enjoyed reading both of your voices as you narrated your return visit and loved the compare/contrast photos. Enjoy the sun, have fun, and keep on hugging the inside of the trail.

  4. Pingback: Dan and Hannah Return to San Ysidro Canyon after a Weekend of Debris Flows – over60hiker

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